The socioeconomic status of white ethnics

By Razib Khan | August 15, 2010 7:31 pm

In the post below on the prolific nature of the Kennedy clan some commenters were curious as to the general socioeconomic slant of Irish Catholics. The GSS has a variable ETHNIC which asks which nation an individual’s ancestors came from. Combine that with RELIG, and you can figure out how Irish Catholics stack up nationally. While I was looking at Irish Catholics I thought I would look at whites from various nations. I decided to exclude Jews from the analysis because I think there’s a big difference between Polish Catholics and Polish Jews socioeconomically and we’d lose information aggregating. Further, I constrained the sample to non-Hispanic whites. To look at socioeconomic index I focused on the SEI variable. Here’s how SEI is calculated:

SEI scores were originally calculated by Otis Dudley Duncan based on NORC’s 1947 North-Hatt prestige study and the 1950 U.S. Census. Duncan regressed prestige scores for 45 occupational titles on education and income to produce weights that would predict prestige. This algorithm was then used to calculate SEI scores for all occupational categories employed in the 1950 Census classification of occupations. Similar procedures have been used to produce SEI scores based on later NORC prestige studies and censuses.

Here are some values for reference:

Jewish = 62
White non-Hispanic = 51
Hispanic = 43
Black = 42
Only High School Education = 43
Bachelor’s Degree = 63

I’ve crossed the ethnic groups with religion & region (RELIG & REGION):

Protestant Catholic No Religion Northeast Midwest South West
German 50 52 50 50 49 52 51
French 50 47 47 48 51
Slavic 50 50 62 50 51 55 55
Nordic 55 52 52 55 49 58 58
Irish 50 55 49 52 49 51 52
Italian 53 53 53 53 51 54 54
British 54 55 55 54 51 54 57
Dutch 46 45

I omitted cells where the N < 50. Additionally, “British” aggregates those of Scottish, Welsh, English, and “American” ancestry. Nordic combines those from all the Nordic countries. French includes Quebecois. I’ll let readers speculate, but I’m pretty sure that those with ancestors from Slavic countries of “No Religion” are disproportionately Jews.

  • Joshua Zelinsky

    Sometimes when you present GSS data patterns become immediately obvious but I can’t see almost anything in this data set. The relevant take home point compared to the previous seems to be the Irish Catholics are not very far off from the general population.

  • Razib Khan

    i think this is so. the low SES of dutch and midwestern nordics though attests to the lower ratings given to rural folk who don’t move and gain higher education. the dutch are concentrated in southwest michigan.

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  • Antonio

    It would be interesting to look at the distribution of prestige whithin each group, not just their means.

  • Razib Khan

    you can. i gave you all the variables:

  • benj

    A question: Ethnic group is the country of origin or the … ethnic group ? Because Jews from Slavic countries are not Slavs so they could not be the Slavs without religion of your data.

  • Razib Khan

    this is country of origin. i’m not going to get into a discussion about whether jews are X, which is why i tried to remove them from the equation (most people whose ancestors are from russia in the united states are jewish, not great russian, so that has to be addressed in data analysis).

  • Yawnie

    People with an Irish Catholic grandparent tend to define themselves as Irish in a way than people with one English or German grandparent do not define themselves as English or German. These people of predominantly non Irish ancestry have a socioeconomic status in line with their actual rather than their claimed ancestry, hence the real Irish are made to look more successful that they are.

    I’m sure the same thing is true of many claiming to be Native American.

  • Jason Malloy

    I didn’t expect Southern whites to have higher SES than whites from the Northeast.

  • Chris T

    I’m surprised to see people of German heritage ranked as low as they are.

  • Jon Claerbout

    What do these numbers mean? By what measure can the Nordic countries can be equally protestant and catholic?

  • Razib Khan

    a minority of americans whose ancestry are from nordic countries are roman catholic. that’s what you’re seeing. the rows and columns do not add up on the margins.

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  • mormon nailer

    Germans (and French) have low verbal IQs and thus fare poorly in this loudmouth, anti-intellectual entertainment economy. And ditto the German-Americans (Bobby Flay, Donald Trump, Bob Newhart, etc.) hiding behind their Celtic genetics meme–all Germans have had a distinctly beta cast since, oooh, around the mid-forties. Considering how much more accomplished the Germans are as a people, this is the usual sad commentary on the declining American society.

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About Razib Khan

I have degrees in biology and biochemistry, a passion for genetics, history, and philosophy, and shrimp is my favorite food. In relation to nationality I'm a American Northwesterner, in politics I'm a reactionary, and as for religion I have none (I'm an atheist). If you want to know more, see the links at


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